Mondays are for Murder: Miss Pym Disposes…

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It’s time for another murderous Monday and I’ve got a wonderful British mystery for you that is simultaneously classic and mould-breaking. Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey was originally penned in 1946 and the writing was so delightfully engaging that I almost forgot I was reading a murder mystery. You’ll understand more of why that might be so a bit later in this review. So let’s jog on.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

A guest lecturer at a college for women, new author Miss Pym becomes involved in a question of cheating during final exams. Does her act of compassion precipitate a fatal accident – or murder?

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Plot Summary:

Miss Pym Disposes follows the fortunes of young Lucy Pym, who has suddenly found celebrity after penning a bestselling book on psychology. After receiving an invitation from an old friend, now the headmistress of a physical training college for young ladies, to give a guest lecture to the students, Miss Pym finds herself drawn into the busy, energetic world of the seniors and staff. But of course things can’t unfold in such a jolly, English fashion – the possibility of a cheater amongst the ranks of the students sitting final exams is followed by a nasty accident that sours the final weeks of the college year . To top it off, Miss Pym stumbles across some information that could bring the futures of the college girls to ruin.

The Usual Suspects:

Once it becomes apparent that a possible murderer is on the loose, the pool of suspects is reasonably shallow. For most readers, I suspect that the killer will be a close run choice between two or three obvious characters with clear motivations….but then again, there might be a twist waiting in store!

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

As this is not your typical murder mystery, the hunt is short and reasonably transparent as both Miss Pym and the reader zero in on the only possible person/people that could be involved.

Overall Rating:

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Four poison bottles for the health benefits of bracing, country air as panacea for gymnastic overexertions

Miss Pym Disposes is easily the most unusual murder mystery I have yet read. This is due, in great part, to the fact that the murder doesn’t actually take place until fully three quarters of the book has gone by. I know for a fact that it is fully three quarters, because my handy Kindle “percentage read” guide told me so. And when it does, it is not immediately apparent that a murder has occurred. And once this does become apparent, there are only a very small handful of people that could conceivably have the motive to commit the act.

So really, the murder bit did not turn out to be the best bit for me, although there is a cheeky little twist at the end that endeared me yet further to Miss Pym. Instead, I thoroughly enjoyed Tey’s tone and the intricate character development that went on as Miss Pym (and in turn, the reader) came to know the girls and the staff better. Tey has a light touch replete with dry humour and the ability to create imagery that is sure to raise a smile. Even though I knew that this was a murder mystery, I didn’t really notice that no murdering had taken place because I was simply enjoying Lucy’s engagements with Dakers and Beau and Miss Lux and Fru Froken and of course, the Nut Tart.

This book would be the perfect book if you are in the mood for a bit of mystery, but would mostly just like a tightly told, highly amusing, deeply engaging holiday in the midst of an English boarding school (for big girls). Having satisfied myself that I thoroughly enjoyed Tey’s work in this one, I will now be seeking out her other mystery titles, particularly those in the Inspector Alan Grant series.

Until next time,

Bruce

A Read-it-if Review for lovers of Spookiness: Shiverton Hall #2 The Creeper…

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Morning horror-lovers! Today I have a particularly creepy and fun read for you.  I’m pretty excited to be bringing it to you, because this second installment in the Shiverton Hall series by (the intriguingly named) Emerald Fennell has cemented the series as one of my new favourites.  Today I will present to you book two in the series, subtitled The Creeper.  I stumbled upon this series a few months back and was immediately drawn into the thrillingly chilling exploits of Arthur Bannister and his friends at the boarding school Shiverton Hall. Obviously then, when this one popped up on Netgalley, it was a no-brainer to request it – and I’m so happy I was approved because it is possibly even better than the first book and ensured that my heebies were thoroughly jeebied!

shiverton hallFor those unfamiliar with the series, I’ll give you a little overview before jumping into reviewing this new installment.  In Shiverton Hall, we meet Arthur Bannister, a young lad who experienced some trouble at his previous school and finds himself the recipient of a mysterious scholarship to the (slightly run down) boarding school, Shiverton Hall.  When an ex-pupil bursts into the principal’s welcome address, screaming at the students to beware their imaginary friends, Arthur begins to realise that Shiverton Hall is not all midnight feasts and play up, play up and play the game.  As a number of students begin to succumb to some strange behaviour, Arthur, along with his friends, ghost-story loving George and voice of reason Penny, attempt to figure out the mystery of the imaginary friends before anyone else is subjected to some supernatural and not-so-friendly behaviour.

You can read my (5 star!) review of the first book at Goodreads, here.

In book two, Arthur is all set to return to Shiverton Hall armed with some new knowledge about the hall itself and how he fits into it.  But before he leaves, Arthur is accosted by a horribly burned man in a hood who warns him not to return to school.  Arthur, though shaken, ignores the warning and is soon reunited with George, Penny, Jake, Xanthe and (unfortunately) the Forge triplets.  With an eccentric new art teacher and compulsory Wednesday afternoon activities assigned by principal Long-Pitt, Arthur has plenty on his plate without having to think about crazy warnings from creepy strangers.  After a few lessons with Mr Cornwall however, the students uncover the legend of the Creeper – a mysterious painted figure, whose absence from his painting usually indicates that a child is about to go missing.  The story sounds easy to discount – except when you consider that a young boy has recently gone missing from Grimstone without trace.  Through his Wednesday afternoon visits to an elderly lady in Grimstone, Arthur finds out more about the strange and violent history of the town and Shiverton Hall.  On investigating the missing boy himself, Arthur also finds out about an old book that may have played a part in the disappearance.  With danger closing in all around, and more encounters with the burned man, it looks like Arthur’s second year at Shiverton Hall will be just as eventful as his first!

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Read it if:

* you’ve ever thought that returning to school for another year might be a bad idea (with or without assistance from a horribly burned stranger)

* you (like me), can’t go past a book that has stories within stories…particularly if the stories within are even scarier than the story without

* you believe that a psychic medium must be real if he goes by the name Alan

Right, so as I mentioned, I really like this series and I will be buying the first two very soon to be placed reverently on my “special” shelf, so clearly I will be singing its praises in this review.  Allow me to get a few little niggles out of the way first.  The main problem I had with the book was the fact that this installment seemed to have a number of similarities to the second book of the Harry Potter series.  There’s the warning to the main character not to return to school, there’s a sinister book involved in the plot and there’s the sudden appearance of a vain, eccentric new teacher with very little teaching talent.  Admittedly, these are all resolved in very different ways to the Potter series, but those few commonalities (especially as they happen fairly early on in the book) may be enough for some people to put this down as a rip-off of that more famous set of books.  They would be foolish to do so, in my opinion, but I felt I should put the warning out there, because even I was having a few qualms as I was reading.

But onto the good (awesome!) stuff.  One of the reasons I love this series so, is that Fennell has deftly woven a bunch of original short horror tales into the main plot of the story.  In the first book it is mainly George who is the narrator of these tales, and in this book they mostly come from Arthur’s elderly friend Mrs Todd, but much like Chris Priestley’s Tales of Terror series, these stories add immensely to the pacing and creepiness and spine-tingly-dingliness of the main plot.  They’re like little islands of terror dotted off the mainland of Arthur’s adventures.  I would never consider myself to be a lover of horror stories, but I must be of the closet variety, because I LOVE these scary snippets – being chilled to the stone by the likes of Skinless Tom and Grey Mary just adds to the reading experience of this series.  My favourite of these mini-stories was Husband and Wife – what a ripper! – that features some utterly strange strangers that you would be well advised to avoid, should you bump into them in the (shadow) street.

Another thing I love about the series is the banter between George, Penny and Arthur.  George has some classic one-liners thoughout both books and Fennell has a wonderful, dry sense of humour (the best kind!) that includes unexpected and hilarious interjections and extremely colourful and giggle-worthy descriptions.  One of my favourites of this book was the description of George’s self-portrait, in which we are told that while George attempts to paint himself in a suit of armour, the end result turns out looking more like a potato draped in ferrets.  Oh, the imagery!

Overall, the characters are strong and believable, the tales and back-story surrounding Arthur and Shiverton Hall are thorough and detailed, and the writing is highly engaging and filled with humour, as well as creepiness.

If you like a rollicking mystery that also contains true look-over-your-shoulder scariness, this is the series for you.  Shiverton Hall: The Creeper is released on June 5th.  Get on it, my friends.

I’m off to drape a potato in ferrets,

Bruce

*I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review*

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